June 3, 2008

And now yet another reason why my Western Addition/Nopa neighborhood rocks: one of my favorite pastry chefs ever, Boris Portnoy, formerly doing his magic at Campton Place, is now taking over the kitchen at ~CANDYBAR~. Portnoy will be launching his new (and tighter) menu tomorrow, on Wednesday. There will be a seasonal dessert tasting menu, a few more savory dishes, and the new menu will organized into two sections, fruit and chocolate, for both savory and sweet. Some examples of savory/fruit include razor clams with grapes and purslane, or pork belly and stone fruit—how about some foie custard with almond nougat and nectarine compote for dessert? In the chocolate zone, a savory dish will be beef cheeks with caramelized onion broth and a red pepper bonbon, or a sweet will be chocolate savarin with raspberry Turkish delight. I seriously can’t wait to see what Boris is putting together—this could get dangerous, his delectable and inspired desserts are a mere block away. Hours are also changing: Candybar will be closed on Tuesday instead of Monday, so more industry folks can come by and hang out. 1335 Fulton St. Ste 101 at Divisadero, 415-673-7078.

Over in Union Square, the chef changeover at ~CORTEZ~ is approaching. Executive chef Seth Bowden’s last day will be June 15th, but today, June 3rd, Jenn Puccio, formerly the chef of Ramblas, officially starts as the executive chef of Cortez. Bowden will be training her for two weeks, while her husband, Ed Puccio, formerly the GM of Ubuntu, has already started as the new GM. Cortez’s sommelier, A.J. Ferrari, has taken the assistant GM position. We’ll see where Bowden lands once he returns to San Francisco from his travels in September… 550 Geary St. at Jones, 415-292-6360.

More downtown news: from a tablehopper tipster, rumor has it that ~MORTON’S THE STEAKHOUSE~ is taking over the closing Disney Store space, and will move upstairs for its a la carte dining, and will keep the current downstairs room for banquets. This is all unconfirmed—I’ll follow up with confirmed details as soon as I have ’em. 400 Post St. at Powell, 415-986-5830.

Over in the Mission, the fire that happened last week in the hotel above ~LIMON~ initially looked like a small issue for the restaurant, but it has turned into a bigger one. Due to some water and structural damage, Limon is closed until further notice. One report from someone close to the restaurant says it could be over a month, another source says possibly even two. I’m also hearing about a liquor license in the works. Will let you know when a reopening date looks close. 524 Valencia St. at 16th St., 415-252-0918.

One place that is opening in the Mission will be location number three of ~BALOMPIE~! Balompie Café No. 3 is (finally) opening in the former Libis Ng space on June 14th. The offerings will be pretty much the same as the other locations, but since it won’t be open for breakfast, don’t look for any desayuno treats. Pupusas, of course, will continue to be in full effect. Beer and wine too. It will be open Wed–Thu and Sun 4pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 11am–11pm, closed Mon–Tue. 3801 Mission St. at Richland.

Here’s an update on Yerba Buena Lane: the first San Francisco location for ~AMBER INDIA~ (currently with locations in Mountain View and Santana Row) is looking like it will be open the second week of June, hopefully by the 11th, according to the owner. Amber is a multi-level and 5,000-square-foot space, and will be open for lunch (Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30pm) and dinner daily (Sun–Thu 5pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 5pm–10:30pm), brunch on the weekend (Sat–Sun 12pm–3pm), and the lounge will be open and serving appetizers and bar bites daily, continuously from 11am–11pm. 13 Yerba Buena Lane, 415-777-0500.

Just around the corner, opening on June 8th is ~CAFE ON THE SQUARE~, the café associated with The Contemporary Jewish Museum. McCall Associates & Events Management put together the seasonal menu, which strikes me as a bit more Cal-Mediterranean than necessarily Jewish (think mushroom and cheese panino instead of hot pastrami), but there will be some “daily specials consisting mainly of Jewish recipes interpreted with a contemporary twist.” Ingredients are local and organic, seafood is line-caught, and the menu will have a number of vegetarian and kosher selections. There is indoor seating on the Museum’s lobby level, plus some outdoor seating on the new Jessie Square facing Yerba Buena Gardens. Open daily (except Wednesday) 11:30am–4:30pm, and on Thursdays from 11:30am–7:30pm. 736 Mission St. at Third St.

The neighboring ~PRESS CLUB~ is further delayed: the new opening date is looking like late June. 20 Yerba Buena Lane.

Another update on a delayed project: ~CIVIC RESTAURANT AND BAR~, the restaurant opening in the Soluna space. The partners are still working out the lease details with the City for the adjoining corner lot they are hoping to turn into the restaurant’s patio. Once things are final and a go, the target date is a soft opening by the end of July. 272 McAllister St. at Larkin, 415-621-2200.

Up on Russian Hill, after Pasha suffered damage from neighboring restaurant Star of India’s fire, the new owners decided to start from scratch, and are reopening after six months of closure as ~COSSU~. The restaurant is slated to open from mid to late June, and will feature an eclectic menu that includes Moroccan, Asian, French, and Californian influences from chef Hicham Senhaji, a native of Morocco. Sample dishes on the menu are Moroccan pan-seared scallops with pine nut couscous, or cumin and anise seed-crusted rack of lamb, plus brochettes, and bastillas. The interior will be outfitted with rich fabrics, including an overhead canopy of satin anchored with a hand-carved ceiling centerpiece. Guests can come in for dinner in the main dining room, or for drinks and appetizers in the lounge. 1516 Broadway at Polk, 415-885-4477.

I have no idea if these Buffalo wings are any good, but according to an ad I saw, the somewhat new spot ~DOUBLE DECKER~ in Hayes Valley has an all-you-can-eat wings night on Wednesdays from 4pm–8pm, for $11.95. Their beef for their burgers is Niman Ranch, and they make their own fries, but no word on the site what the provenance of the chicken is. Bwok. 465 Grove St. at Gough, 415-552-8042.

And now, vegans, a little something for you! I got a report from a tablehopper reader that they are diggin’ the new eats at ~THE USUAL SUSPECTS CAFÉ~ in North Beach. The two-level space has a 90-percent vegan menu, serving a few dishes with real cheese, hence the ten percent that’s non-vegan. The menu is mostly Mediterranean comfort food, with some Latin flair. Dishes include pressed taquitos with cashew cheese, seared red pepper, onion, and asparagus with a cashew-based cilantro “sour cream”; shwarma with house-made seitan; some pasta dishes; and quite possibly the only vegan pizza in San Francisco, with an organic cornmeal crust and a variety of toppings. The chefs are Mark Benedetto and Ted Rosenblatt, and the owner is Bob Bosco. Vegan and dairy-free desserts are being baked in-house a few times a week by Sugar Beat Sweets, a change from the typical citywide selection from Black China Bakery. Each level has 50 seats, and the space has a 1950s diner look—you’ll also hear some surf tunes on the sound system. Beer and wine, and some open-mic comedy begins this week Thu–Sat—look for even more comedy, plus acoustic music down the road. Hours are Tue–Fri 11am–10pm, and Sat 5pm–10pm or later, closed Sun–Mon. 450 Broadway St. at Montgomery, 415-434-4444.

Also in North Beach, consider this a little teaser (a mere bite of a sandwich) about some changes coming to ~PALERMO DELICATESSEN~. I can release more details next week on the who and what, but for now, the news is that it changed hands, and will be called La Spiaggia Deli (which means beach in Italian). Stand by! 1556 Stockton St. at Union.

More deli news: Thrillist mentioned Pacifica’s ~UPPER CRUST DELI~ is opening a second branch in the Fillmore—based on the address, it’s moving into the former Cocina Poblana space (too bad they closed, I liked some of their dishes, like the mole). The menu includes burgers, cheesesteaks, and other hot sandwiches, like grilled pastrami. 1109 Fillmore St. at Golden Gate, 415-674-1301.

More Fillmore news: Top Chef contestant and pastry chef ~MARISA CHURCHILL~ is no longer up the street at Yoshi’s—she will be consulting elsewhere, and Suzanne Lafleur, who was working under her, will assume the reins. No drama, and it was an amicable parting, but it looks like it was a bit of a belt-tightening move. 1330 Fillmore St. at Eddy, 415-655-5600.

While the next season of Top Chef hopefuls is being determined, a summons to über-chefs was called last week, for the biannual ~BOCUSE D’OR~ World Cuisine Contest (visit the site for some Iron Chef-like drama and musique). Chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller are recruiting and training a USA team to do us proud—applications are due June 30th. For local flavor, chefs Traci Des Jardins, chef and "DJ Oobert" Hubert Keller, and Michael Mina are all on the all-star board for the event. Let’s rawk, USA!

Meanwhile, the ~JAMES BEARD AWARDS~ are on Sunday, best of luck to all our local restaurant talent, including Nate Appleman (nominated for Rising Star Chef); Boulevard and the Slanted Door (for Outstanding Restaurant); Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson (Tartine Bakery) and Nicole Plue (Redd) for Outstanding Pastry Chef; Terra (St. Helena) for Outstanding Service; Douglas Keane, Cyrus (Healdsburg); David Kinch, Manresa (Los Gatos); Craig Stoll, Delfina (San Francisco); and Michael Tusk, Quince (San Francisco) for Best Chef: Pacific region. There are also a number of wonderful cookbook authors and journalists up for awards too, kudos to all.

Next week’s is Incanto’s fifth annual ~HEAD TO TAIL DINNER~ on Monday June 9th and Wednesday June 11th, fives courses of meatses partses for $75 per person. Check out the full menu here. 1550 Church St. at Duncan. For reservations, call 415-641-4500.

~CHEESE PLUS~ is hosting its third anniversary with a summer solstice food festival on Saturday June 21st from 11am–6pm. More than 20 local bay area artisan food vendors will hand out samples of their handmade foods throughout the day for free. This year’s line up includes: sausages and salami from Fra’Mani; LaLoo’s Goat Milk Ice Cream; Bellwether Farms farmstead sheep cheese; Allison McQuade’s authentic and tasty chutneys; Redwood Hill Sonoma goat cheese; Perfect Edge knife sharpening service (fee for sharpening); and live music. 2001 Polk St. at Pacific, 415-921-2001.

On my drive down to Palm Springs last week, I was kicking myself for not picking up a TWO-go box lunch from ~TWO~ before hitting the road. That was totally my I-5 savior the last time I drove down to the 760. And how timely, TWO just launched a new spring TWO-go menu with new sandwich and side options—you’ll now find sandwiches on the main lunch menu as well. TWO also posted the dates and menus for the annual and upcoming cooking classes—last year’s lobster boil was a total blast, enter the lottery to see if you can snag a spot for it in July! 22 Hawthorne St. at Howard, 415-777-9779.

Meanwhile, over in the East Bay, there’s a cool hands-on class for chocoholics at ~CHARLES CHOCOLATES~ with Chuck Siegel. He has opened the doors to his Emeryville kitchen for a series of public chocolate-making workshops. The classes will take place on Saturday afternoons, and last approximately five hours. Participants will be able to take home all of the confections they make, plus a deluxe kit containing molds, an offset spatula, sheet pans, and several recipes developed by Siegel—everything necessary to use what was learned during the class at home. The cost is $300 per person, and the first class will take place on Saturday June 14th from 1pm–6pm. For more information or to reserve one of the limited spaces in the class, call 510-652-4412 x311 or go online.

Saturday June 7th, The Pasta Shop is hosting ~HOG HEAVEN–A CELEBRATION OF ARTISAN PORK~. There will be cooking demonstrations, food tastings, and in-store product giveaways, all for free (except for any product purchases). The event includes products from Boccalone, La Quercia prosciutto, Iberico-cured hams (finally available in the United States), David’s Old World Meats “Hamlettes” (local artisan-made single-muscle hams), and The Pasta Shop’s original house-made pork products and prepared dishes. 1pm–3pm. The Pasta Shop, 1786 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-250-6070.

Next week are ~OLIVETO’S OCEANIC DINNERS~, from Wednesday June 11th–Saturday June 14th. I adored my meal there last year, so many delicious and delightful dishes, like the chilled octopus soppressata (pictured). This year’s menu includes new numbers, like green sea urchin flan, a Hangtown fry omelet crèpe, and potato gnocchi with tiny Tomales Bay mussels. For reservations, call 510-547-5356. 5655 College Ave. at Shafter, Oakland.

More East Bay Buzz! Chowhounds are discussing a newly proposed Southern Italian trattoria called ~FALANGHINA~ from Haig and Cindy Krikorian of Sea Salt, Lalime’s, T-Rex, Fonda, and Jimmy Bean’s. Can you say wood oven-fired Neapolitan-style pizza? There will also be antipasti, homemade pastas, and a full bar, with an extensive wine list and a variety of Italian classic digestifs. The restaurant will be located in an 80-year-old building that is next door to Sea Salt, complete with brick walls and wood beams. Falanghina will actually be taking over two spaces, combining the storefronts at 2514–2516 San Pablo. There will also be a small retail sales line of specialty food products, wine, and liquor, like grappa and Fernet. Hours are slated for 11am–11pm daily. You can check out the plans here. 2514 San Pablo Ave. at Dwight, Berkeley.